STARRING: Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins, Alec Baldwin, Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, Peter Sarsgaard, Michael Stuhlbarg, Louie CK, Max Casella.
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY: Woody Allen
You can never count Woody Allen out as a director. Just when you think he’s in a rut he turns around and gives you one of his best films, and also one of the best films of the year. Two years ago he directed the fantastic Midnight In Paris, only to follow it up with the forgettable (but alright) To Rome With Love. In between Midnight In Paris and Vicky Cristina Barcelona were the mediocre Whatever Works and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger. Between Vicky Cristina and Match Point was Scoop. He almost never directs two back-to-back instant classics, so you can bet that his next film won’t be as good as Blue Jasmine.
Blue Jasmine features a tour de force performance from Cate Blanchett as Jasmine, a woman who spent her whole life as a socialite married to an investment broker (Baldwin) who was doing some shady dealings, and she lost everything in the process. The film picks up in the aftermath, where a clearly mentally unstable Jasmine is moving out to San Fransisco to stay with her sister Ginger (Hawkins) in San Fransisco until she gets back on her feet. But Jasmine isn’t coping well with the change. She’s used to living a very expensive lifestyle, and realizes she has no skill set other than to be on the right arm of a very wealthy man. The movie transitions back and forth from Jasmine’s current life, to her life of the past.
We learn that Jasmine’s ex-husband Hal even scammed Ginger and her then husband Augie (Clay) out of 200K that they had planned on using to better their own futures. Ginger still takes in her sister, god love her, because she’s family. Ginger’s new fiance, Chili (Cannavale) butts heads with Jasmine frequently as she refers to him constantly as a loser, telling Ginger that she deserves better. Both Ginger and Jasmine were adopted, and Ginger always thought that their parents liked Jasmine more because she had better genes. Jasmine, in her new life, eventually finds someone (Sarsgaard) who might be able to restore her to her socialite status, but it is clear at this point that she is too unraveled for this to not be a failed relationship.
Blanchett lays all of her cards on the table as Jasmine, a woman unspooling before your eyes. By the end of the first scene, you can tell that something isn’t right, and as the film progresses, Jasmine continues to lose her pieces of sanity. She finds herself mumbling stories of the past to herself, in public, always the same story over and over, like it’s rehearsed. She’s told this story before. It’s because of Blanchett’s performance that this film balances on a very thin line between comedy and drama. Some moments are truly funny, but a lot are heartbreakingly serious. Blanchett continues to solidify her place in film history with another career-defining performance. This might actually be my favorite performance of hers, because she fully realizes this character on screen. You’re not watching Cate Blanchett, you’re watching Jasmine. And love her or hate her, you can’t help but feel terribly sorry for her.
Sally Hawkins is also a standout as Ginger. She’s a nice balance to the film as the hardworking sister who didn’t catch the same break as Jasmine, and falls for perfectly decent guys that Jasmine deems losers. She let Augie get away, likely in the aftermath of them losing all their money. She struggles with Jasmine’s opinion of Chili, and almost lets it get the best of her. She has a particularly wonderful scene where she has made a decision that Jasmine would have wanted her to make, only for Ginger to realize it wasn’t the right decision for her. Both women should hear their names called among the Oscar nominations, and both could easily win their categories.
Andrew Dice Clay is actually really good in this. I know that’s shocking, but Woody Allen clearly took a risk casting him, and I think it paid off 100%. He’s perfect as Augie, a lunk of a guy that’s good to Ginger. It’s clear that Ginger lost something good, even if Jasmine doesn’t believe so. Alec Baldwin is great as Hal. He’s always classy, and plays the wealthy guy role so well every time. He’s an obvious choice for it at this point. Bobby Cannavale is also terrific, as another guy who probably does treat Ginger well, but doesn’t live up to Jasmine’s standards. It’s clear that Jasmine’s constant berating of him affects his own self worth, but in the end Chili seems to rise above.
I loved Blue Jasmine. I think it is a great film with a stunning performance and should be seen by all, especially those who love a great Woody Allen movie. When he finds the right cast, and matches it with a great script, it really turns out to be a masterpiece.
FINAL GRADE: A